Debates never tackled climate change
October 23rd, 2012
06:00 PM ET

Debates never tackled climate change

We heard a lot about how the candidates feel about foreign policy in Monday night's debate. In fact, over three debates, we have seen the candidates debate any number of issues. But not climate change.

For whatever reason, President Obama and Mitt Romney never got around to tackling climate change in the debate forum. Neither, for that matter, did Vice President Joe Biden and GOP vice-presidential hopeful Paul Ryan.

This is the first debate cycle since 1984 that has not mentioned phrases such as "climate change," "global warming" or "environmental crisis." In 1988, the issue arose in the vice-presidential debate between Democratic candidate Lloyd Bentsen and Republican candidate Dan Quayle; both mentioned "the greenhouse effect."

Brad Johnson, campaign manager for the group Climate Silence, issued a statement circulating in the media highlighting this fact. The candidates "have failed to debate the greatest challenge of our time. Climate change threatens us all: The candidates' silence threatens to seal our fate," Johnson said in a statement, as quoted by Scientific American.

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Filed under: 2012 Election
Expedition 33 Crew Waves Farewell
October 23rd, 2012
11:22 AM ET

Expedition 33 Crew Waves Farewell

"Expedition 33/34 crew members, Soyuz Commander Oleg Novitskiy, bottom, Flight Engineer Kevin Ford of NASA, and Flight Engineer Evgeny Tarelkin of ROSCOSMOS, top, wave farewell before boarding their Soyuz rocket just a few hours before their launch to the International Space Station on Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2012, in Baikonur, Kazakhstan. Launch of a Soyuz rocket later in the afternoon will send Ford, Novitskiy and Tarelkin on a five-month mission aboard the International Space Station."

Source: NASA

Filed under: Light up the screen
Overheard: What are those shiny objects on Mars?
October 23rd, 2012
10:58 AM ET

Overheard: What are those shiny objects on Mars?

Editor's note: This post is part of the Overheard on CNN.com series, a regular feature that examines interesting comments and thought-provoking conversations posted by the community.

Last week, NASA scientists announced that the Mars rover Curiosity had found something unexpected: small bright objects. These one-millimeter flecks didn't appear to originate from the rover, but rather from Mars itself. They could be part of the soil forming process, or they could be minerals cut in particular ways that make them look shiny in sunlight.

More than 550 people commented on this story. Most people had fun guessing what the shiny objects might be.

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Filed under: In Space • Mars • Overheard on CNN.com • Voices
Scientists aghast over Italian quake verdicts
Bernardo De Bernardinis, former vice-president of the Civil Protection Agency's technical department, was found guilty.
October 23rd, 2012
10:57 AM ET

Scientists aghast over Italian quake verdicts

Earthquake experts around the world say they are appalled by an Italian court's decision to convict six scientists on manslaughter charges for failing to predict the deadly quake that devastated the city of L'Aquila. They warned the ruling could severely harm future scientific research.

The court in L'Aquila sentenced the scientists and a government official Monday to six years in prison, ruling that they didn't accurately communicate the risk of the earthquake in 2009 that killed more than 300 people.

The trial centered on a meeting a week before the 6.3-magnitude quake struck. At the meeting, the experts determined that it was "unlikely" but not impossible that a major quake would take place, despite concern among the city's residents over recent seismic activity.

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Filed under: On Earth • Severe Weather
Rocket Rollout
October 22nd, 2012
02:05 PM ET

Rocket Rollout

"The Soyuz rocket is rolled out to the launch pad by train, on Sunday, Oct. 21, 2012, at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Launch of the Soyuz rocket is scheduled for Tuesday, Oct. 23. The rocket will send Expedition 33/34 Flight Engineer Kevin Ford of NASA, Soyuz Commander Oleg Novitskiy and Flight Engineer Engineer Evgeny Tarelkin of ROSCOSMOS on a five-month mission aboard the International Space Station."

Source: NASA

Filed under: Light up the screen
Overheard: Tax dollars in space - worth it?
Should we pay to explore other planets? Readers have mixed views.
October 22nd, 2012
11:27 AM ET

Overheard: Tax dollars in space - worth it?

Comments on CNN Light Years consistently flood in about how the money spent on the space program isn't worth it. We often see the word "waste" in connection to the tax dollars that go toward exploring the rest of the universe beyond our planet.

So, we ran a story this weekend about what innovations space exploration has delivered. Examples included digital image processing used in medical scanning, GPS and state-of-the-art tires.

As expected, readers expressed a variety of opinions upon reading this story. Some were sympathetic with the viewpoint of the middle-class mother interviewed for the article, who cringes when she thinks about tax dollars going to NASA, and wishes she had more funding for her daughter's college tuition.

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Filed under: In Space • Overheard on CNN.com • Voices
Capturing the Orionids
October 22nd, 2012
10:38 AM ET

Capturing the Orionid meteor shower

The Orionid meteor shower put on a cosmic light show for the Northern Hemisphere over the weekend. The Orionids peaked early Sunday morning as more than 25 meteors an hour streaked the night sky.

The astronomical event caught the attention of many photographers over the weekend. iReporters from across the world stayed up late or woke up early for the chance to catch a glimpse of the meteor shower.

Renata Arpasova set her alarm a few hours early, waking up at 1 a.m. to see the Orionids from Wiltshire, England. She found a clear patch of sky and was thrilled to see a few big, bright meteors pass overhead.

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Filed under: In Space • iReport
Tax dollars in space
October 20th, 2012
12:01 AM ET

Exploring space: Why’s it so important?

By Zaina Adamu, CNN

Carol Beckles isn't buying into all the space exploration hype. She’s a single, middle-class mother of three living in a modest, cozy three-bedroom home in Atlanta’s suburbs. She foots the college bill of her oldest daughter Tiffany, who – like her mom – wishes she got more government help to pay for tuition.

“It’s definitely hard. From the time that I was a senior (in high school) I had to start figuring out how I was going to pay for this,” said Tiffany who sits close beside her mom.

A mere mention of taxpayers’ dollars going to NASA makes Carol cringe. “I don’t see the use. What are we going out there to do?” she asked. CNN commenters often share these sentiments; one recently identified himself/herself as "waste of tax dollars."

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Filed under: News
October 19th, 2012
11:05 AM ET

How to watch the Orionid meteor shower

By Jareen Imam, CNN

Silver fireballs will streak over the Northern Hemisphere on Saturday and Sunday. The much-anticipated Orionid meteor shower is scheduled to peak over the weekend, greeting October skies and stargazers with a brilliant show.

The Orionid meteor shower will peak about 12:00 a.m. PST Sunday, although there may be meteor sightings before and after, says Karen Randall, director of special projects at SETI Institute. The “shooting stars” will be even more visually prominent because the new moon will be setting about midnight Saturday, allowing for a view unaffected by bright moonlight, according to NASA.

The best time to view is Sunday morning, NASA says: Wake up an hour or two before the sun comes up; the constellation Orion will be high in the sky. You don't even need a telescope; you can just lie down and look up.

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Filed under: In Space • iReport
October 18th, 2012
06:17 PM ET

Mars rover spots shiny objects

By Elizabeth Landau, CNN

As the rover Curiosity tries out more of its tools on Mars, surprises emerge on the Red Planet. After using the rover to scooping dirt, scientists saw something unexpected: small bright objects.

At first, they looked man-made and out of place, said John Grotzinger, Mars Science Laboratory Project scientist and professor at California Institute of Technology, at a news briefing Thursday.

But upon closer examination, these 1-millimeter flecks – about the size of the granules in the soil – were not uniformly bright and didn't appear to have come from the rover.

"The majority of the science team felt that this might be something that is actually indigenous to Mars," he said.

There are two prevailing theories about what these flecks might be. One is that certain classes of minerals, when broken along a cleavage plane, would have a flat surface that reflects sunlight. Or perhaps they're part of a soil-forming process.

This is probably not connected to the object that Curiosity found last week, which NASA scientists believe was "a shred of plastic material, likely benign."

The images that the rover sends from this location will help scientists come up with more hypotheses about how this area was formed. They will eventually pick a rock for the rover to drill into.

"Beginning with some rocks we studied before the scooping began, and going on now for the several weeks in front of us, those images will help guide us and give the team options of what I’m starting to call tours," he said.

Curiosity is currently situated at the "promised land" of Glenelg , a site of particular scientific interest on the Red Planet because three different kinds of terrain exist there.

For a little over a week, the rover has been sitting at a place called Rocknest, where it has used its scoop three times to pick up Martian material. The rover threw away the first two samples because they were used for cleaning high-tech instruments. Curiosity inserted material from the third sample into an instrument called Chemistry & Mineralogy (CheMin), which will analyze the minerals of which the material is composed.

"The most important thing about our mobile laboratory is that it eats dirt," Grotzinger said.

The rover has been operating on Mars since its spectacular landing on August 6. After Glenelg, it will head to Mount Sharp, a 3-mile-high mountain made of layers of sediment. Curiosity will examine these layers for organic molecules, evidence that life could have once existed there.

What we've done on Mars, and what's next

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Filed under: In Space • Mars
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